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Associative Issue Ownership as a Determinant of Voters' Campaign Attention
West European Politics
Campaigns raise public interest in politics and allow parties to convey their messages to voters. However, voters' exposure and attention during campaigns are biased towards parties and candidates they like. This hinders parties' ability to reach new voters. This paper theorises and empirically tests a simple way in which parties can break partisan selective attention: owning an issue. When parties own issues that are important for a voter, that voter is more likely to notice them. Using survey data collected prior to the 2009 Belgian regional elections it is shown that this effect exists independent of partisan preferences and while controlling for the absolute visibility of a party in the media. This indicates that issue ownership has an independent impact on voters' attention to campaigns. This finding shows that owning salient issues yields (potential) advantages for parties, since getting noticed is a prerequisite for conveying electoral messages and increasing electoral success.
issue ownership, election campaigns, campaign attention, Belgium
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